Giovanni Giorgini Reviews Tyranny: A New Interpretation

May 17, 2018

Fear Over Love


Waller R. Newell has written a very dense and rich work on the “dark side” of politics, namely, the regime which has defined evil in politics since the inception of political theory: tyranny. What immediately strikes the reader is Newell’s attempt to combine a highly theoretical philosophical approach (strongly influenced by Heidegger and Leo Strauss) with an attention to political reality, including contemporary events, concerning the phenomenon of tyranny. His purpose—as the subtitle of the book reads—is to provide a new interpretation of a historical and practical occurrence, the appearance of tyrannical regimes at many stages of human history. Newell’s main contention is that tyranny (and the understanding of it) underwent a dramatic change at the beginning of modernity, with such authors as Machiavelli, Bacon, and Hobbes. Originally, Plato elaborated an interpretation of tyranny which remained canonical in classical political thought: in his powerful representation, the tyrant was characterized by a misguided love for material pleasures; this left the door open to a possible “redemption” through a....


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